Cherry Blossom Festival, 'Portraits of the Garden' return to Descanso

With the official start of spring still wrapped in its bud, Descanso Gardens is celebrating the majesty of nature's blossoms in two special events that begin this weekend.

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off Saturday, from 9 to 5 p.m., and continues over two consecutive weekends to accommodate a growing interest shown by visitors in recent years. The event features crafts, activities and performances as well as guided walks through the garden's 40 or more cherry trees, which represent about a dozen varieties.

Descanso Gardens Executive Director David Brown said the festival allows visitors to welcome springtime by coming together to observe and reflect on the delicate blossoms that, to many cultures, represent the transience and fragility of life.

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"They just have this powerful attraction, especially in the spring" Brown said of the flowers, which blossom briefly before capitulating and falling to the earth. "It's very sad and melancholy and fleeting, but also hopeful."

In years past, crowds descended upon La Cañada Flintridge en masse to take part in the two-day festival. To alleviate congestion, Descanso officials have extended the event to two weekends and are asking patrons to purchase tickets online and select a time window for their arrival.

Also this Saturday, members of Descanso Gardens can take a sneak peek at "Portraits of the Garden 2: BLOOM!," a juried art exhibition featuring nearly 175 art pieces from artists who answered an open call for works celebrating all things floral.

The show is a follow-up to the original "Portraits of the Garden," which opened in January 2014 and asked artists to present images inspired by Descanso Gardens. BLOOM! expands the concept to include a variety of interpretations from artists throughout the nation, according to Sturt Haaga Gallery Manager Cris Martinez.

"This one has a theme of flowers, pollinators, seeds and all those wonderful things that produce flowers on the plant," Martinez said. "It's very resplendent."

Brown said many of the pieces selected flip the ordinary human-to-flower size ratio, giving audiences a rare "hummingbird's view" of the floral world.

"It makes you stop and look at things that were previously familiar, and makes you look at them through a kaleidoscopic view," he added. "I think the public is going to love it."

Tujunga artist Kimberly-Ann Talbert, who has three works in the show, said her submissions were inspired by regular walks through Descanso's grounds. One piece, "Remnants of Rain," shows a plump, pink chrysanthemum adorned with water droplets.

"Through my photography I want to show people what I see," Talbert said. "Most of us are so busy that we simply do not take the time to stop and enjoy what is around us."

BLOOM! opens to regular visitors March 7 and runs through May 28, with an artists reception planned for March 16 from 4 to 6 p.m. Admission to Sturt Haaga Gallery is free with garden admission.

Descanso Gardens' Cherry Blossom Festival tickets are the cost of general admission, $9 for adults, $6 for seniors over 65 and students with ID and $4 for children ages 5 to 12. Tickets must be purchased online at descansogardens.org in advance of the event.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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